Thursday, April 24, 2014

RUSTIC ARBOR, INSPIRATION THURSDAY

Country arbor, image from Sunsetliving.com
I'm sure this was probably set up or decorated for a wedding, but whatever the reason, it's just so pretty to have a rustic structure like this over in a corner of the yard.  We have so many places on the property that we could do something like this and so we saved this photo to remind us someday of what we could do.

It's nice how an arbor, even without being attached to another structure like a fence or gazebo, just frames a yard and sort of beckons you to walk through it.  We could totally see this on one of the trails.

Have a great day!
Be inspired! 

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

PAINTING A CANDLEHOLDER



Found this metal wall mounted candle holder at a garage sale recently.  It's not old or anything valuable, but we liked the style and design.  So of course...








...I had to whip out the can of spray paint and get to work.  I didn't need to  sand it, this was already smooth and ready for painting.  I hung it up on a hook we have hanging from a tree branch and gave it a coat of red paint.  Side note, we love painting things in the country, we can do it anywhere and not worry about paint drifting to where it's not supposed to be!








...and here it is hanging on the wall in the kitchen.  Yes, I know the candle is a bit large, need to find some smaller ones, but we couldn't wait to see what it looked like.  It nicely matches the other reds we've put in the kitchen, the cookbook stand HERE, and the paper towel holder makeover HERE.

So pull out that paint can and give something old a new lease on life!

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

I HAVE PINE MOUTH

Pine Nut Syndrome / Pine Mouth
You have WHAT?!?!  POTTY MOUTH??
NO, not that, PINE mouth!
(though I have been known to have that on occasion as well, but I digress).
PINE MOUTH?
NEVER HEARD OF IT!
YEAH, ME NEITHER!

Rewind a few weeks ago.  2nd Man bought some Pine Nuts at our local Kroger grocery store.  He toasted some and put them on top of a salad.  A few days later I noticed an odd metallic taste in the back of my mouth.  Thought it was just some odd, random event.  A few days later I ate some more, just a quick handful from the fridge as a snack.  Still had the annoying problem.  Drank a glass of red wine at dinner one night and it tasted like vinegar.  Horrible (and it was a good bottle of wine!).  Had some homemade bread treats at work, they tasted like I had put a pocketful of change in my mouth, yuck!  But still, I didn't make the connection.  Had another handful a few days later as a snack (hey I like them, what can I say?).  Still having the bitter, metallic taste.  Nothing tasted good.  I was thinking "what could this possibly be?"

So of course I turned to Google and did some surfing...

BINGO!  Found out there is something called PINE MOUTH or PINE NUT SYNDROME.  I didn't make the connection at first. Honestly, I thought it could be a new multivitamin we were taking.  But looking back at it now, I realized we had started that a couple weeks before the first pine nuts.  

I could link to a ton of articles, but here are a couple if you are curious to read about it.  THIS is the FDA warning.  THIS is a grad student that did her thesis on the problem.  The general consensus is that less expensive Chinese pine nuts are mostly the cause, followed by Russian and Korean pine nuts.

Product of China Pine Nuts, causing Pine Nut Syndrome
Check it out!  I flipped the container over after finding the most likely cause and lo and behold, there it is....PRODUCT OF CHINA!   Then I noticed there is a WARNING on the package about the very problem I was having!  D'oh!

"In rare instances, people may experience a sensitivity reaction from pine nuts, termed 'pine mouth' which is characterized by a metallic taste that resolves without treatment"

I must be the rare instance because 2nd Man didn't have the issue at all.  Just my luck.  After I threw them all away and stopped for a couple of weeks, it did just fade away.  It's a crazy experience for sure.

I will be honest, this makes me hesitant about eating pine nuts in the future.  I love pesto made with pine nuts and I love them on salads and other dishes.  Since I have never had the problem before when we were buying the more expensive Italian or Spanish pine nuts, I'm willing to try it again...eventually.

For now, we say stay away from the Chinese pine nuts for sure!  You will NOT like having Pine Mouth, I can speak from personal experience.



Monday, April 21, 2014

RAISED BED MULCH IS DONE

I can say, without hesitation, that this has been THE single hardest thing I've ever done at our farm.  It took two full days to get it all done.  I have blisters on my hands (even with gloves), my arms and shoulders are sore and my legs feel like I've run a marathon.  But we're so happy with the end result.

My boss said something funny to me in a text when I sent him a picture.  He said "the smell of mulch is really nice, but after a few yards of shoveling, the smell of a cold beer is even better".  I'm not a beer person but now I totally understand, ha.



Friday morning, about 9am, the truck showed up and dump ten cubic yards of black mulch into the yard in front of the garden.  After using a regular shovel for an hour, I walked down to 2nd Family's house and asked if I could borrow a pitchfork.  There's a twist on borrowing a cup of sugar!  That helped immensely.  I would work for about 50 minutes, then take a break on the porch for 10 minutes and then start up again.  All day. I lost count of cart fillings.  The first day I got the entire garden area, about 1300 square feet, at least covered.  But that was only about 60% of the pile.



Side note, when it was delivered on Friday, it was a very cool morning.  After the truck left, I noticed steam coming off the mulch.  It was pretty neat to witness.




It was just a matter of filling the cart and then rolling it into the garden, and dumping it out, over and over and over again.  Then I used a rake (and later, my foot) to spread it around. 


On the second day, we bought this awesome 10-tine pitchfork, it was absolutely invaluable in finishing the project (it scooped about three times as much at a time).  Between that and the Rubbermaid cart we bought a few weeks back, the job was much easier to finish.





Before we unveil the end result of all the hard work, let's remind you of what it looked like when I started.  The strip down the middle was where I didn't put the weed block cloth because I knew I'd be running the cart back and forth with the mulch in it.  So after that was done in the rest of the garden, I put the weed fabric down and mulched the center section.

BEHOLD:
Raised bed garden mulched
The entrance to our garden in all it's mulched glory!

Black mulch
This is the back to front view.

Raised vegetable beds
Garlic/Shallot bed, herb bed, eggplant/pepper bed, and tomato bed.  The last bed at the far right of the photo will be a squash bed.

Black mulch around raised beds
The seven beds in this photo will still need to be irrigated and have some more soil and compost put in so they will become future expansion.

I had a friend of the farm email me and ask why we used all this beautiful mulch on the ground and not in the beds and was it going to be wasted just being on the pathways on top of the weed block fabric?  Great question that might help others as well.  First, we will be adding mulch around the veggies but probably not this.  This is dyed black and while it's a natural dye, we aren't sure if that would affect anything growing.  As for the mulch, we had a decision to make.  With the enclosed garden, mowing and/or edging grass was a mess.  It grew fast, it spread weeds into the beds and it was just too difficult.  We had to put something down between the beds.  Gravel was a choice but it was very expensive and after all this, I can't even imagine putting hundreds of shovels full of gravel down in the same way, ha.  The mulch came in natural, which we thought was kind of blah.  It came in red, which they overuse down these parts in shopping center and fast food flowerbeds.  That left black.  They were all the same price.  We chose black.  Cedar was a choice but it was twice as much as the regular.  This is a great quality shredded mulch.

We like to think of this area like a flower bed.  In your flower bed, you mulch around your pretty bushes so that they are the star of the show (and keep weeds to a minimum in the process).  Here, the raised beds (and veggies growing in them) are the stars and we want them to stand out as well.


It's such a relief to have this done.  I'm not sure how long it will look this beautiful but for now, we are so pleased with the end result.


Sunday, April 20, 2014

HAPPY EASTER


Back to the farm today, didn't get the mulch finished yesterday.  The zen machine time took up too much of the day (not that that's a bad thing, ha).  We would have spent the night but had pre-arranged plans in town so it's off to the farm early this morning while it's cool so I can finish up the mulching.


Hope you are having a great weekend!

Ours has been great, tiring of course, but great!

Saturday, April 19, 2014

THE DAY OF MULCH PART ONE

Black mulch
It was a long day yesterday...

I arrived at 8am, the mulch arrived about 9am, and I left at 6pm.

This is a short blog entry just to let everyone know I survived and the mulch is down.  Full pictures and post when it's done, but here is a teaser picture:

Mulch between raised beds
I got the entire garden covered and still have quite a bit left.  That means I didn't make it all three/four inches deep so today, Saturday, will be part two!

I did this all by myself yesterday as 2nd Man had to stay home and work, but...he did surprise me with a great meal when I got back into town:

Meatloaf and Mac and Cheese
Homemade meatloaf with Mac and Cheese.  There is also a glass of wine (or two) just out of picture range.  Before you ask, yes, I DID eat all of this plate!

It was a tiring day but it ended well.  Last night was early to bed and today was early to rise.  We'll be finishing the mulch and I'll have zen machine time.  2nd Man will be cleaning.  It will be a good day again, I'm sure of it.

Hope you have a great weekend and Happy Easter!

Updates later!

Friday, April 18, 2014

GOOD DAY TO MULCH

I'm off today, our office is closed, so no work for me.  No office work anyway, this is farm work (the best kind, right?)


As this posts, I'm at the farm dealing with a delivery of 10 cubic yards of mulch.  I am imagining a giant, mountain size load of mulch that blocks out the sun, but we'll see!  And of course, I'll have pictures to share.

Now that irrigation is working (knock on wood) and plants are growing (knock on wood) and the weather is cooperating, it's time to fill up the garden with the mulch so that the weeds/grass start getting smothered (they are already springing up around the weed block cloth, ugh).


Thursday, April 17, 2014

FLOWERS ALONG FENCE LINES, INSPIRATION THURSDAY

Flowers along fence line, image via Davesgarden.com
A 'two-fer' today.  While the above photo looks like this person's property needs to be mowed a bit (I should talk, LOL!), we like the idea of the flowers along the fence line.  Below is a raised bed also built along a fence line and we like it for the same reason.  There are a lot of fence lines at the farm and while many are covered by trees and brush and therefore aren't visible, there are sections we can see that are just a fence...nothing pretty to catch your eye.
 
Recently, I've been thinking of taking the tiller and just going along the fence line to loosen the soil and grass, and then just planting some flowering bushes.  We'd need drought tolerant plants of course but I think some Texas Natives would work. Once I'm done with the garden work, this might be the next project just to see how it works.
 
Be inspired!
 
Fence flowerbed, image courtesy of Southernliving.com
 

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

PULL APART PIZZA BREAD RECIPE

Here is a recent discovery, and while it is quite decadent, it's so good we make a batch on occasion when we want a quick snack instead of a full meal.  I have no idea where the original recipe came from but it's all over the Internet.  In case you have never had it, or seen it, here it is:




These are the ingredients.  Very simple and actually very adaptable if you wanted to play around with the flavors, different cheeses, meats, seasonings, etc.

Begin by cutting up the pizza dough.  It unrolls out flat, I just cut it in no particular way, just into easier to manage pieces.  One step I left out of the photography is rolling them into balls.  You can leave them like this, we have done that, it just makes for a bit denser loaf.



Next, do the same thing with the pepperoni. You want it in small pieces so that it will be distributed more evenly throughout the batch.


Then, just put them all together into a bowl and gently toss.  I use my hands, and with the oil in there, it mixes pretty easily.  Be careful not to smash it together, you want the pieces of dough to just sort of touch, this is how it pulls apart in the end.



Lastly, just put it all in the Bundt pan and that's it, you are ready to bake it.  You can layer if you prefer, a few pieces of dough, some pepperoni, cheese, more dough balls, etc.



Cook in a 350 degree oven for about 30 minutes, or until the top is golden.  It's kind of hard to judge because you want to make sure the dough is cooked but 30-40 minutes is about right.  







Then you just pull it apart and it's got all sorts of gooey, cheesy, pizza goodness inside.
Pull apart pizza bread
We like to serve it with a side of warm marinara sauce for dipping.  YUMMY!

Ingredients:

2 cans pizza dough
2 cups shredded cheese (we used a pizza blend)
1 cup grated parmesan
1 seven ounce package pepperoni
1/3 cup olive oil
garlic powder, red chili flakes and black pepper (to taste)

Follow above instructions and enjoy!


Tuesday, April 15, 2014

TRES LECHES CAKES IN JARS FOR THE WEDDING

So this past weekend was 2nd Man's Niece's wedding.  She and her fiancĂ© both wanted a casual and stylish at home wedding.  They asked 2nd Man if he would make his famous "Tres Leches" (Three Milks cake, click here if you've never heard of it) as their wedding cake.  When we saw the invitation, we had a thought.  Would they like cakes cooked in jars?
They loved the idea since their theme included mason jars.



2nd Man was in charge of the inside of the jar (the cake) and I was in charge of the outside.  We decided to pull elements from the invitation into the jar decor.  The first thing I did was find the exact same purple and white string from their invitation.  I  found office supply store hang tags and swapped out the string.



Then I purchased a stamp set with letters of the alphabet and an ink pad.  This way, I was able to recreate their initials as they had them on their invitation.  "A heart E".  I stamped them all, one letter at a time, and then went back and stuck a red heart sticker in the middle of each one.  We think it looked pretty nice when compared to the invitation. 




The other theme from their invitation was the burlap and lace.  I found some burlap and cut it into squares.  Then I bought a spool of lace ribbon and cut it into strips.

This is what it looked like when I was done.  I would put the metal canning lid on, then a piece of burlap with the lace in a strip one direction and the hang tag with purple/white string the other direction.  Lastly, as I was holding it all in place, I screwed the ring onto the jar to hold it all into place. 

As much as I could get the decorations ready, they still had to be baked, the tres leches poured over and allowed to soak in and whipped cream topping put on, all before I could decorate.  The batter was poured in each jar and baked, sixteen at a time, in the oven.


Here are seventy two jars, filled and baked, waiting for whipped topping and then the jar decor.  At this point, only 24 more to go!





This is what they looked like in the back of the car, ready for their wedding debut.
Wedding cakes in jars, burlap and lace
Lastly, here they are on the table at their house.  We made 96 of them.  I believe 90 people or so RSVP'd so we we figured better to have a few extra, plus the jars come in cases of twelve.  They were, from all outward appearances and comments from everyone, a huge success.

The wedding was just beautiful, "E" looked SO pretty in her dress and "A" was smiling from ear to ear throughout the entire event.  A really nice touch came at the end of the ceremony after they exchanged rings.  They pulled out a box, opened it together and beautiful monarch butterflies flew out and into the yard.



You know, I grew up an only child, so we just never had a big family.  It was just Mom and Dad and both sets of grandparents most to the time for any special occasion.  To be welcomed into this wonderful and large family means the world to me.  I am truly blessed!



LATE CHILL WITH RAIN


The farm is somewhere in the middle of this monsoon like mess.  And to top it off, it is now in the low 40's.  The farm will dip into the upper 30's.  No freeze thankfully, for us anyway, but dang, this is a record breaking low temperature for our area this time of year.  Brrr!  Stay warm and dry wherever you are!